Karma for the Vegetarian

IMG_0696Vegetarianism has a few drawbacks, especially when living abroad. Finding decent food that doesn’t have meat can be difficult, and you run the risk of offending or inconveniencing others.

In Ecuador, ham manages to make its way into almost all foods without being identified, such as “vegetable quiche,” “lentil soup,” “salad,” etc. In addition, few Ecuadorians can understand vegetarianism — they often say, “Well, this is only chicken.” As a result, I sometimes felt like my own desire to reduce suffering (and CO2 emissions) caused a lot of anguish. Even poor supermarket staff would look at me in a stupor as I explained what tofu was, and they would insist no such thing existed in their country (it does). And any health benefits of being vegetarian were ruined in Ecuador, because I was reduced to eating a lot of bread to avoid meat.

Well, I think the universe is about to reward me for surviving as a vegetarian in Ecuador for 2 years — because Indonesians seem to get it.

Since we are staying at a co-worker’s house, we have a cook (household staff will be discussed in future posts). With Bruno off in Nairobi, I asked her to please make whatever Indonesian dish is vegetarian. The result — delicious, healthy, protein-packed tofu vegetable stir-fry and tempeh with red rice. It turns out, according to Wikipedia, tempeh “is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia.” It’s been here in Java for more than 200 years! I live among the original inventors of fermented soy protein (technically tofu is much older and from China, but that is relatively close). Fermented soy protein may sound a bit gross to some of you, but the authentic version, is rich and nutty. Tempeh contains even more protein, fiber and vitamins than tofu.

More importantly, perhaps, those foods were invented by people who adopted vegetarianism as part of their religion. Buddhism and Hinduism were the dominant religions of Java for centuries and are still present, though Islam is more prevalent now. Both of those religions encourage a vegetarian diet. The theologies are complex, but essentially they believe killing sentient beings is bad. People who do not practice these faiths still seem to respect it as an honorable characteristic.

About Katherine

Katherine lived on four different continents before settling in to Washington, D.C., to raise her family. She works at a global think tank during the day and raises twin boys the rest of the time. When she isn't working on a spreadsheet for work, she loves walking in the forest with her family, which invariably involves stomping in puddles and climbing on logs. Though she is less of a world traveler these days, she continues to seek out adventures, from exploring D.C.'s museums and playgrounds to taking road trips to national parks. When it's time to unwind, she can be found snuggling with her husband on the couch. Likes: adventures, sleeping past 7 a.m., being surrounded by forests, the sound of her boys laughing, and locally made ice cream. Dislikes: whining, the patriarchy, and people who judge parents/kids.
This entry was posted in Food & Drink, Indonesia. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Karma for the Vegetarian

  1. Meg Windecker says:

    I would happily read 20 of your posts a day, love it!
    So interesting!

  2. lynnshea says:

    Dad says it looks yummy, we’ll be right over. Mom says sure the cook teaches you are the secrets so you can cook this for us next time you’re in CT. What are those things that look like granola bars?
    Love you

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